Trinity 12 2016

Trinity 12
August 14, 2016 A+D
Psalm 70 (Introit)

Psalm 70

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.

    Make haste, O God, to deliver me;

Make haste to help me, O Lord.

    Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul:

Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.

    Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame

That say, Aha, aha.

    Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee:

And let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

    But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God:

Thou art my help and my deliverer;

O Lord, make no tarrying.

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

David is desperate in Psalm 70. Three times he insists that God make haste. “Make haste, O God, to deliver me!” “Makes haste to help me, O Lord!” And “Make haste unto me, O God.” He also tells the Lord to make no tarrying which is a nice way of saying, “hurry up.”

We are not told when David wrote this Psalm, what the occasion was, but the inscription tells us what he wrote it for the memorial offering – which is translated in the King James as “to bring to remembrance.”

God had commanded that His people bring a thank offering from the harvest to the Temple. When they did so most of it was given to the priests for them to eat, but a small portion was burned on the altar as a memorial. We aren’t told what the memorial offering meant, what exactly was being remembered, only that it made a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

At first glance the desperation of this Psalm doesn’t seem to match the mood of a thank offering. If your grandmother gets all the family together and lays out a big spread at Thanksgiving and then clasps her hands and says, “We have so much to be thankful for!” and you respond with “Make haste, O Lord, to deliver me!” it is not going to go over very well.

We do well to consider then what David had in mind and how it fits with thanksgiving. After the initial burst of desperation, David settles into just two petitions in Psalm 70. First he wants justice against those who have hurt him and then he wants joy given to those who seek God and love His salvation. He wants those people to keep on praising God. He does not place himself with those people. Instead, he says, in contrast, “But I am poor and needy, make haste unto me, O God.”

If the main idea of the memorial offering was that in the midst of thanking God for His providence we should also remember that the stuff of this world is fleeting and we, ourselves, are mortal – then David’s prayer makes quite a bit of sense. If the main point was that God should remember the One who would be burnt up in His wrath in our place, as our Substitute and not remember our sins, then David’s prayer also makes a kind of sense. For without the self-giving of the Christ on the cross we could not be thankful for anything.

But maybe it is just that David’s heart was breaking for his people and he sought to give voice to their pain and need, to write a prayer for sinners. Or perhaps he was moved by their thankfulness in their poverty. They were those who sought God and loved His salvation. David could see that in their generosity. He, who was wealthy almost beyond  measure found himself rebuked by their faithful acts and their giving up of their worldly goods to support God’s house. Thus he honored them in his prayers. In doing so he realized how unworthy he was, how much more pious they were, and then how desperate he was for God’s intervention and help.

If you’re looking for me to solve this riddle that I’ve posed, you’re going to be disappointed. I don’t know that it can be solved or that it needs to be solved. I don’t know that we have to choose one meaning for the memorial offering or one setting that drove David to write this psalm. Is your thanksgiving dinner at your Grandmother’s house only about thanking God or only about celebrating family or only about eating canned cranberry sauce?

What we have before us in Psalm 70 is the Word of God. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us as a gift – not simply to instruct us about God and His mercy – though certainly to instruct us about God and His mercy – but also to give us a way to pray, to give us the very words to say, and to inspire us into further prayer. If prayer is to be a conversation with God then the Psalms give God a chance to speak and us a chance to listen and say back to Him what He has revealed to us.

There are some strong Messianic connections here also. David’s first bit of parallelism, that which we know so well from Matins and Vespers, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord!” uses two names for God and asks for two actions: God and Lord, deliver and help.

If we understand the more general title “God” as referring to the Father then we are asking Him to send the Deliverer, that is His Son, our Lord, the Messiah. “Make haste, O God, to deliver me.” If the second title, Lord, the more personal Name for God, the One given to Moses from the burning bush, is a reference to the pre-Incarnate Christ because He is the mediator between humans and the Trinity, then we are asking Christ to send the Helper, which is to say, the Holy Spirit as He Himself refers to the Spirit whom He promises to send in John 16 and 17. “Make haste to help me, O Lord.”

In verse 4 David speaks of those who love God’s Salvation. The Hebrew verb “save” is part of Jesus’ Name as it is commanded by the angel Gabriel. His Name is the word “Lord,” or “Yahweh,” and the verb “saves.” Here we have the noun “salvation’ that is from the same root as the very “saves.” Because of how it is declined, it sounds in Hebrew like the name Jesus. The word salvation here is pronounced “Yeshua.” So David is asking that those who love Yeshua would evermore say: “God is great” which is to say, the Father is great and this they can say because they love the Son.

Like David we might pause and consider the people who give more to the Church in their poverty than we do in our riches. That ought to cause us to repent.  Like the people offering thanksgiving to God, we might pause and consider our mortality and ask that God not remember our sins. But neither David nor we, nor any sinner, needs to pray this prayer in terror. We are desperate for God’s intervention but we are not in a panic. David says, “I am not as pious as I should be. I like my stuff and it is hard to give it up, to make sacrifices for the Gospel. I don’t always rejoice in you, O Lord. Sometimes I resent you because it seems as though you take the fun out of sin. Thus I am poor and needy. The pious widows put me to shame. I wish I was better but I am not and I cannot save myself.”

But he doesn’t end there. He is poor and needy to be sure. So are we. But David is also confident in God’s promises. He prays “You, O God, are my help and my deliverer. Do not delay, O Lord.” It isn’t conditional or modal. It isn’t a possibility or potentiality. It is a simple reality: God in His mercy is your helper and your deliver. The Father has the Son for this purpose: to deliver you. The Father and the Son have sent the Spirit for this purpose: to help you, to give you faith, to comfort you.

David’s virtue here is that he needs help and he needs delivering and he knows it. This is more essential to Christianity than generosity or humility. It is called in the Bible repentance and faith. May God, in His mercy, grant us all the same and teach us to pray with David:

Make haste, O God, to deliver me;

Make haste to help me, O LORD.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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